Transparency, fairness at stake in PSC due to nexus of certain officers

*‘Blue-eyed’ consultants deployed, post of Controller Exams lying vacant

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Apr 22: Much needed transparency and accountability in Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission (PSC) is at stake due to nexus of some officials, who have been assigned all the key assignments and access to entire secrecy section which even the Members of this major recruiting agency don’t enjoy. This deep-rooted nexus is leaving no stone unturned to deprive candidates from Jammu region of selections for various posts in the Government departments.
The prevailing situation, which justifies the allegations from different organizations and parties about unfair and biased approach in selections, demands that unless these officers and officials are shunted out the transparency and accountability will continue to remain at stake and protests against the Commission will continue.
The present Chairman and Members of the Public Service Commission were appointed in July 2015 but despite lapse of nearly two years no serious effort has been made to fill up the post of Controller of Examination, which otherwise is considered very vital position in any recruiting agency countrywide, insiders in the Commission told EXCELSIOR.
“The charge of post of Controller of Examination has been given to Secretary of the Commission Shakeel Ul Rehman, who astonishingly has remained posted in the Public Service Commission since October 2014 in blatant violation of Government’s Transfer Policy, which states that maximum period of posting of any officer against a particular post shall not be more than two years”, they said.
They further said that in the recent past a proposal was mooted by the General Administ-ration Department for transfer of Secretary Public Service Commission and appointment of new KAS officer on this particular post but the same could not be cleared due to the intervention from certain Cabinet Ministers.
According to the reliable sources, Public Service Commission had engaged Hakim Ghulam Jeelani, former Secretary Services  Selection Board as Consultant during 2007-08 on remuneration of Rs 54,349 per month and Mushtaq Ahmed Bhat, former Under Secretary PSC as Consultant more than five years back on remuneration of Rs 42,339 per month. Astonishingly, they are still continuing as Consultants despite allegations from certain quarters that they are part and parcel of the nexus developed in the Commission.
“At the time of their re-engagement in 2015, it was stated that this arrangement would continue only for six months so as to facilitate the new Chairman and Members in understanding the functioning of the Commission but they are being given one after another extension till date in blatant violation of Government Order No.384-GAD of 2015 dated March 17, 2015 whereby all the re-employment orders issued by various Government departments were revoked with immediate effect”, sources informed.
They further disclosed that instead of replacing these consultants the Commission has given them all the important assignments including access to the secrecy section which even the Members of the Commission don’t enjoy. “Who should be the experts in exams is also decided by these consultants in consultation with the Secretary of the Commission”, sources said, adding “even briefings are given to the visiting experts by these consultants which otherwise should be the prerogative of either Chairman or the Members”.
“While the Commission is very keen in giving one after another extension to these Consultants there is absolutely no focus on filling vacant posts of Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary and Additional Secretary particularly the post of Controller of Examination”, sources pointed out, adding “the nexus of these and few other persons in the Commission is leaving no stone unturned to deprive candidates from Jammu region of selections for various posts in the Government departments”.
Pointing towards some recent selections made by the Commission, sources said that a number of candidates from Rajouri and Poonch districts, who performed well in all the stages of selection process, failed to find their names in the selection lists. “We were shocked to see the names of those candidates who were less meritorious as compared to us”, they told EXCELSIOR.
According to the insiders, the experts while being given briefing before allowing them to perform their duties have a number of times in the past been asked to keep the turmoil in Kashmir valley in mind, which is the testimony of prevailing nexus. “There are also reports about certain officials having access to secrecy section contacting the candidates otherwise figuring in the selection lists because of their merits so as to obtain pecuniary benefits from them before publication of lists”, sources said.
“In the light of these and other glaring facts how the Commission can claim that it is functioning with utmost transparency remains a million dollar question”, they said, adding “there should not be any hitch in getting the present officers and officials replaced keeping in view widespread allegations of discrimination and favouritism in selections and even protests from several organizations”.
When contacted, Chairman of the Public Service Commission Abdul Latief Deva said, “the present level of transparency in J&K’s PSC cannot be seen in any of the PSCs in the entire country”. “I can throw challenge to anybody to prove the allegations of favouritism in any of the selections”, he added.
When asked about inordinate delay in appointment of Controller of Examination, he said, “this is an administrative matter and I have written to the Government a number of times but they are not deputing any officer. May be, they are facing shortage of officers”, adding “similarly, I have sent a panel to the Government for deployment on other posts in the Commission but I have not received any response till date”.
About the consultants engaged in violation of GAD order, the PSC Chairman said, “these days the officers having qualities of honesty, integrity and capacity to deliver are rarely available and the consultants engaged by us possess all these qualities”, adding “they are effectively assisting the Secretary-cum-Controller of Examination as such I don’t feel that they are required to be shown the doors at present”.
He, however, added, “still I have approached the Government to give us substitutes”.
Contrary to the claims of PSC Chairman, Senior Congress leader and former Minister Sham Lal Sharma, while commenting on the functioning of Commission, said, “though the PSC is an autonomous body yet level of transparency in the Commission during our Government was much more as compared to at present”, adding “we are not against selection of candidates from one region or the other…all what we want that only meritorious candidates must get selected”.
“The claims that there are less meritorious candidates from Jammu have no ground and such claims are made only to justify selection of majority of candidates from Kashmir valley”, he said, adding “what to talk of other things the present Chairman of the PSC is even not eligible for the post as only Principal Secretary and above level officers can be given this post”.
Similarly, National Panthers Party leader, former Minister and legal expert Harshdev Singh said, “the claims of the PSC about its functioning don’t carry any meaning when there is public rage against selections made by it during the past nearly two years”.
“The continuous protests particularly from the students clearly indicate level of resentment against the selections and unless the same is taken seriously it will explode like anything”, he said. “What is the hitch in replacing the present officers and officials especially when there are allegations against them”, he asked and said, “how can the Commission consider them indispensable…..it means all other officers in the State administration are not men of integrity and honest”.
Similar were the views of representatives of several political parties, who were approached for the comments on the functioning of PSC.

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